The 2019 upland game, small game and woodcock seasons opened in Eastern Ontario this morning. The weather was near perfect for the opening day of these seasons. The sky was clear, the winds were minimal, and the temperature was hovering at about 10 degrees C. I set out for the farm near Spencerville with my new hunting buddy James and Hera, my Brittany, shortly before 7:00 am. It is about an hour’s drive from my house in Centretown Ottawa to the farm. James and I arranged to meet Mike, another of my hunting buddies, at the farm for 8:00 am. Though James is not new to hunting–having hunted small game with his buddies in Cornwall in previous seasons–this would be his first woodcock hunt. It would be his first hunt over a bird dog also. We stopped at a Tim Hortons on the way–I have to have my morning cup of Joe–and arrived at the farm in good time. Mike came with his dog, Maggie, a German Shorthaired Pointer, not long after James and I got there. We started our hunt not long after 8:00 am, eager to see what fortune would bring. Continue reading
I got out to the Stittsville Shooting Ranges with my new friend and hunting buddy James Burnside. We met at the range at noon; it was our first meeting in person. I like to go to the range with new hunting buddies to get acquainted. I like to see how they conduct themselves on the shooting range and show them that I am experienced and safety-conscious in handling firearms. I went to sign in, pay for four rounds of skeet shooting, and purchase four boxes of 20 gauge ammunition. I brought my Franchi Instinct SL in 20 gauge. I had the skeet and skeet choke tubes installed. James went to his car to retrieve his Remington 870 Express pump-action gun in 12 gauge. The skeet range was free so, we walked on to the field with our shotguns, ammunition, and my camcorder on its tripod. As I placed my gun on the rack next to the first shooting station, James advised me that a man standing with a couple of his shooting buddies had concerns about the camcorder. Continue reading
I am not a competent boatman. It may be that I have so little experience operating motor boats or I lack the aptitude for operating outboard moters. It may be a combination of the two issues. I got a painful reminder this morning while out for a solo fishing expedition on the Rideau River between Manotick and Kemptville. Buoyed by the successful outing with Doug and his son Landon last weekend–we caught lots of panfish, perch, sunfish and a white crappie and had are really good time–I had high hopes for my fishing trip this morning. I stopped by Sail Ottawa earlier in the week to shop for tackle to fish for crappie. I needed a bigger tacklebox before I left Sail.
While at Sail I looked over some fish finders. I remember seeing one in action several years ago when I went fishing with a neighbour on the Greater Rideau Lake. While I typically like the old ways when it comes to fishing and hunting, I thought I might give it a try. I checked out various brands of portable fishfinders online and found the Garmin Striker 4 Fish Finder with Portable Kit to my liking. Even better, Canadian Tire had them on sale! I paid for the Garmin fish finder online and picked it up at Canadian Tire the next day. Mika helped me assemble the kit–I am not very good at assembling gadgets that come in kits. I looked up tutorials on YouTube to learn how to operate the new fish finder. One aspect I like about the Garmin fish finder I bought is it has a GPS also. The only thing about the new fish finder I found iffy was the suction cup mount for the transducer. Though I viewed a video on how to mount the transducer on the transom of a boat, I wondered just how reliable such a mount could be.
I decided my fishing expedition this morning would be more prospecting than fishing. I intended to try out the new fish finder in hopes of finding good fishing spots for future outings with Doug and his boys. Crappie were my secondary objective; I had high hopes I could find a school of crappie using the fish finder and catch a few with the new tackle. I searched thoroughly for information on the ecology and habits of crappie, and tactics for successfully fishing for them. I found plenty of videos on YouTube featuring seasoned fishermen offering tips on crappie fishing. I found reports on the main range of crappie in Ontario waters, and the stretch of the Rideau River I fished this morning looked good. I was keyed up and set to go. Still, in the back of my mind, the nagging thought “what could possibly go wrong” lingered. My preparations were so careful this time, “surely everything will go smoothly this time,” I mused confidently.
I picked up my boat at at about 7:30 am and stopped on the way to the W.P. Taylor Conservation Area to add more fuel to the gas tank for the outboard motor. I arrived at the boat launch in good time and as I hoped it was nowhere near as busy as last weekend. I loaded my gear into the boat and carefully attached the transducer for the Garmin fish finder to the transom. I got the boat into the water easily enough. I spoke briefly with an elderly gentleman fishing from the dock. He is visiting his son and grandchildren. He is from Waterloo. On board the outboard motor roared to life without any trouble. I set out for the spot where Doug, his son Landon and I got into panfish the weekend before. I turned on the fish finder and it worked. Everything was going fine, then things abruptly went off the rails.
As I noted in the opening paragraph, I do not have a wealth of experience operating motorboats. I cannot explain what happened but suspect I got something wrong in trying to set the outboard motor for shallow running. Suddenly, the outboard motor tipped up with the propeller almost out of the water and the bow pointing up high out of the water. “This is not right,” I thought with a note of alarm. I hit the kill switch and as the boat drifted adjusted the outboard motor. It took some doing, and my inexperience was not an asset. Eventually I got the outboard motor sorted out. It started with one pull and when I put it in gear the boat moved forward with the bow level on the water. “Great,” I thought, then I heard the sickening “clunk” of something caught in the propeller. I hit the kill switch and to my horror saw the transducer somehow came unfastened and got caught in the propeller. Upon closer examination the transducer survived but the mount and suction cup were torn off and lost.
There I sat on the Rideau River, my prospecting mission over before it started. Rather than give up and return to shore I decided to proceed with my effort to find and maybe catch some crappie. I motored on to the lee side of an island in the channel. There were brush piles and stumps in weed beds. It looked worth a try. Jigging with a bobber, I hoped, might land me a crappie. Turns out my optimism was misplaced. My first cast at the edge of a weed bed ended with my jig, artificial bait and leader taking up permanent residence on the river bottom. Fine, I picked up the anchors and moved to the spot where I caught several panfish with Doug and Landon the previous weekend. I replaced the bait, jig and leader and tried my luck a while. Nothing took the bait.
While I was out on the river I motored up to the other side of the Highway 416 bridge as I heard this is a good spot for pike and walleye fishing. It may be but the area is a fairly broad expanse. I anchored in what looked a likely spot as any and cast a few lines using a Black Fury lure. All I caught was weeds. After a while I moved back close to the spot where I jigged unsuccessfully for crappie. This time I had a few bites. I think it was sunfish or perch. Nothing took the bait. I decided to call it a morning at 11:00 am.
On the way back to shore I came upon a pair of terns perched on a buoy. The birds posed for me and I got some nice photos of them. I recovered the boat without incident and safely returned it to the garage where I store it. In the end, it was more a crappy day than a day of crappie fishing for me. I had a mishap with my new fish finder and did not catch any fish. In spite of today’s misfortune, I remain determined to try again. The challenge now is finding a way to safely mount the transducer to the transom. That and see if someone more seasoned in operating motor boats can give me basic instruction in the technique.
Posted by Geoffrey
To date, I shot one coyote in all my days afield. It was on the opening of the white-tailed deer season, the season before last. I had a buck tag and saw a nice doe come and go while I sat in my stand at the farm near Spencerville where my hunting buddies and I hunt deer. A while after I saw the doe, a coyote wandered into view in front of me. I killed it cleanly with my Browning X-bolt Medallion rifle (left-hand) 30-06 with a 150 gr. bullet. The carcass was left for scavengers and my buddy Jason Quinn, a seasoned hunter and trapper, assured me I did the right thing. Still, I had mixed feelings afterward. I am told coyotes in Eastern Ontario are pests, a threat to livestock and pets. I understood this concern, or so I thought, but decided after killing my first coyote varmint hunting was not for me. What concerned me was the thought this is too close to killing for the sake of killing rather than hunting. I preferred leaving the shooting of coyotes to other hunters, that is, until a recent incident that involved me, my dog Hera and a pack of coyotes. Continue reading
The last two days saw high winds with higher gusts blowing intermittently. This is really not good weather for upland gunning. Still, I offered to take Mike, my newest hunting buddy, woodcock hunting on Sunday, the 23rd of October. It did not help that I woke up early Sunday morning reeling from a shocking headache and waves of nausea. “That’s what Advil and Pepto-Bismol are for,” I said to myself as I made ready to go meet Mike for our planned woodcock hunt. Despite the poor weather conditions and my personal malaise, I was on my way to meet Mike shortly after 7:00 am. Mike lives in Osgoode, a village not far from where I gun for grouse and woodcock in the Marlborough Forest. A lot of rain fell toward the end of the previous week and I hoped this would improve conditions in the woodcock covers. If so, I was confident we would get into some late season birds passing through and dropping in on the Marlborough Forest. I arrived at Mike’s house a little late (I texted, advising him I was running late) and he was ready to go. He opted to follow me in his vehicle. Off we went, bound for Schäfer’s Wood. Continue reading
“Be prepared,” is the motto of the Girl Guides. It is good advice, in my opinion, particularly when I set out on a duck hunting expedition with one or more of my hunting buddies. This morning, I set out with Akber, Omer and Ehtisham for some duck hunting on the Rideau River. I prepared for the hunt the night before, knowing from experience that there is always something waiting to go wrong. I learned the hard way that waiting till the morning of your planned duck hunt to prepare typically ends in frustration when things go wrong or crucial pieces of kit are left behind. Despite my foresight and determination to see that I was prepared well in advance of my departure for the marsh, no amount of preparation (at least in my experience) will stave off all that is waiting to go wrong. This time, however, it took the cake!
It is Thanksgiving Weekend here in Canada and this year Mika and I are hosting Nick Schäfer, a young German man with a passion for hunting, who is staying with us for a hunting holiday. Nick is a student, currently studying business administration at Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario. I spied a post he put up on the Ontario Hunters Unite group on Facebook in which he asked if he might accompany someone on a hunting trip while he is here in Canada. I was among those who responded to his post. I left a reply telling him if he were ever in the Ottawa area during hunting season I would happily take him into the field with me and my hunting buddies in pursuit of grouse, woodcock and wildfowl. I asked that he first get himself the proper permits: a non-resident small game license and a migratory game bird hunting permit. He responded to my offer and when he told me the fall break from school coincided with Thanksgiving Weekend, I invited him to come to Ottawa for a hunting holiday. What follows is an account of day one of his stay. Continue reading
A particular article I read when I was my mid-teens in one of the old hunting magazines my father collected resonates with me to this day. The article in question was penned by a retired US Army officer who lived in Maine. He enjoyed duck hunting on the Penobscot River, gunning for black ducks and goldeneyes in the late season. He hunted with a friend, a man named Dave Bell , a serving officer in the US Army, and noted carver of working duck decoys in Maine. I so enjoyed reading his article as it really piqued my interest in gunning for the common goldeneye. I really wish I could find a copy of the magazine with the article and believe me, I have tried over the years to find one with no luck. I remember learning the colloquial term for the goldeneye in reading this article. Goldeneyes are commonly called whistlers, due to the distinctive whistling sound they make when beating their wings in flight. The author likened the sound of goldeneyes in flight to that of the sound of artillery shells as they approach the target. I spent many years learning the finer points of gunning for the goldeneye and it is something I look forward to every hunting season. Continue reading
While out for a training run with Hera this song sparrow was good enough to pose for me. Hunting is a year round activity, especially when you own a working gun dog. Hera needs to exercise and practice her hunting skills. She found and pointed a woodcock while we were out today and scared up a pair of mallards on a wooded pond. We have daily training runs on some parkland in the southern end of Ottawa along the Rideau River. A well rounded hunter appreciates the outdoors in its entirety and concerns himself with the conservation of wildlife and its habitat. In addition, learning about the ecosystems that support the myriad of living creatures, game and non-game species, enhances the experience.
Posted by Geoffrey
An integral part of my passion for hunting is my love of the natural world. I spend the bulk of my time in the field viewing, studying, taking photographs and videos of wildlife in its habitat. Of the various ecosystems I explore it is wetlands that are my favourite. There is always so much to see in a pond or a marsh. Here I offer some video footage I shot in the spring of 2013 of a red-winged blackbird feeding her chicks. I spied her nest in the cattails at the edge of a pond early in the spring on my daily training run with Hera and watched, without disturbing the birds, as they raised their brood.